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US blue hydrogen build-up could hinder LNG development

Higher IRRs for blue hydrogen projects could allow them to outcompete LNG projects for US natural gas supplies in coming years, hindering LNG development, according to a research report.

Added demand for US natural gas from domestic blue hydrogen facilities could hinder LNG development by pricing out certain proposed projects, according to a research note published today.

The report, from Rob West of ThunderSaid Energy, zeroes in on the booming blue hydrogen value chains in the US and the accompanying IRRs, noting that the projects are technically ready, low cost, and the recipients of “enormous” economic support from the Inflation Reduction Act. The high IRRs give the blue hydrogen projects an advantage on cost over LNG developers in competition for US natural gas supplies.

“There are still some open questions about how the IRA incentives will stack, but the economics (and carbon credentials) just seem so much higher for fueling US blue hydrogen value chains than exporting the gas,” West said via email in response to a question.

Around 20 million tons per annum of blue hydrogen projects have been announced in the US in the last 12 months. These projects will most likely be built around autothermal reformers, or ATR, which allows for more carbon from the facility to be captured.

“Assuming that these autothermal reformers can sell their clean hydrogen at $1/kg, plus two thirds of the $85/ton CO2 disposal credits available under the Inflation Reduction Act, plus $1/kg hydrogen production incentives (for hydrogen with a CO2 intensity of 0.5-1.5 kg/kg), this will uplift ATR IRRs above 40%,” the report says.

Meanwhile, assuming an $8/mcf long-term LNG sale price, an LNG project costing around $750/Tpa to build would earn a 10% IRR. An LNG project would need to sell gas at around $25/mcf to rival the 40% return on the blue hydrogen ATR project, the report notes.

“And this is for a full-carbon product, whereas blue hydrogen is already over 90% decarbonized,” the analysis continues.

ThunderSaid energy’s long-term LNG supply models show a global supply ramp of around 280 MTPA by 2030, with almost half of that (130 MTPA) coming from the US. And of the expected US supply additions, almost 60 MTPA is pre-FID, and counted in the model on a “risked basis,” according to the note.

“In other words, if a boom in US blue hydrogen outcompetes new LNG plants for gas feedstocks, then this could realistically lower total global LNG supplies in 2030 by almost 10%,” the note says, adding, “In what was already set to be an under-supplied market.”

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Developer inks supply agreement for Kansas CO2 utilization facility

The facility will produce green syngas from CO2 to be used for making products such as hydrogen, synthetic base oils, low-carbon jet fuels, green methanol, and others.

HYCO1, Inc.  announces that it has entered into a 20-year carbon dioxide supply agreement with Kansas Ethanol, located in Lyons, Kansas for the planned construction of the world’s largest biogenic carbon dioxide utilization facility, Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC.

HYCO1 is a Houston, Texas (USA) based technology company that has created a disruptive CO2 conversion catalyst and related low-cost CO2 process technology. HYCO1 CUBE™ Technology (Carbon Utilization, Best Efficiency) cost-effectively utilizes carbon dioxide and various methane source feedstocks to create low-cost, low-carbon chemical grade syngas in a single pass.

The syngas produced is used to produce low carbon intensity (CI) downstream products.   HYCO1 technology not only lowers the resultant carbon score of the downstream products by 50% to 100% but does so at a competitive cost compared to fossil feedstock derived products and without the requirement of incentives like many other technologies.  HYCO1 technology enables green syngas to be used for making products such as hydrogen, synthetic base oils, low-carbon jet fuels, green methanol, and many others.

The new HYCO1 project to be co-located with Kansas Ethanol will utilize all of their 800 tons per day of CO2 to produce approximately 60 million gallons per year of low-carbon and zero-carbon products.

Kurt Dieker, chief development officer and co-founder of HYCO1, stated, “While there are many paths that an ethanol facility can take to improve sustainability and margins, ranging from additional energy efficiencies to protein separation, in my opinion CO2 utilization represents the leading value-added step for an ethanol production facility.”

The Lyons HYCO1 project is in the engineering stage with plans to complete the pre-construction engineering in 2024. The facility will produce approximately 4,000 barrels per day of first-of-a-kind synthetic Base Lubricating Oils and Low-Carbon Jet Fuel made from CO2. High-performance products include four centistoke base oil for use in the highest grade synthetic motor oils; and a two centistoke base oil currently being tested by EV manufacturers for its ideal battery and drive-train heat transfer and lubrication properties.

The projects’ products are produced with more than 80% reductions in carbon footprints versus traditional fossil-derived products.   Approximately half of the weight of these new sustainable products will consist of biogenic CO2 that would have previously been emitted into the atmosphere.

Mike Chisam, CEO of Kansas Ethanol, said of the project, “Although most ethanol producers are considering or pursuing underground carbon sequestration in our industry to decarbonize, we believe that carbon utilization, which supports a circular carbon economy, represents the best use of our CO2, and positions us more competitively in the market. Value added products made from CO2 that displace fossil derived products represents a win for us at Kansas Ethanol, a win for the U.S. Ethanol Sector, and a win for the global environment. We are looking forward to the construction of the HYCO1-based Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC facility next to ours. The co-location benefits: carbon dioxide utilization, natural gas offset through waste heat steam production, and additional electricity offsets will position our facility as a world leader of low-carbon ethanol resulting in significant shared savings.” Chisam also noted “HYCO1’s carbon utilization technology enables us to sustainably produce all products, even if, or when, government support incentives are no longer available. That is incredibly important to us.”

HYCO1 is currently evaluating additional project sites and partners to mirror the Green Carbon Synthetics Kansas, LLC project, while also collaborating with downstream technology providers to produce other low-carbon products.

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Electrolyzer startup EVOLOH raises $20m Series A

The raise for California-based EVOLOH was led by Engine Ventures with participation from NextEra Energy Resources and 3M Ventures.

EVOLOH, Inc., a cleantech company that manufactures electrolyzer stacks for hydrogen production, today announced it has raised an oversubscribed $20 million Series A round led by Engine Ventures. Additional participating investors include a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources and 3M Ventures.

The capital will be used to expand the company’s scalable, high-throughput manufacturing technology and introduce additional capabilities for its NautilusTM platform of advanced liquid alkaline electrolyzers, according to a news release.

EVOLOH is making low-carbon hydrogen globally accessible by revolutionizing the manufacturing of electrolyzers. While incumbent electrolyzers are notoriously expensive and difficult to produce, transport and install, and rely on politically and environmentally challenging supply chains, EVOLOH’s manufacturing facility will offer an 80% reduction in capital investment and footprint.

“This round of funding positions EVOLOH to lead the electrolyzer manufacturing market by transforming electrolyzer stacks into affordable, efficient hardware commodities made with 100% local supply chains,” said Dr. Jimmy Rojas, founder and CEO of EVOLOH.

Electrolyzer stacks, the core component of electrolyzers, are offered via EVOLOH’s NautilusTM platform and made from abundant materials like steel, plastic and aluminum and do not require precious metals or rare earth materials. To reduce the CAPEX and OPEX of hydrogen plants using EVOLOH’s Advanced Liquid Alkaline technology, the NautilusTM stacks use low-cost power electronics and do not require corrosive electrolytes. EVOLOH’s NautilusTM stacks are very compact, and can be built into modules of 24 megawatts, making them ideal for large industrial applications.

Katie Rae, CEO and Managing Partner at Engine Ventures and EVOLOH Board member, added, “EVOLOH has a timely and massive opportunity to not only commercialize better and more affordable electrolyzers, but also introduce a faster and more sustainable electrolyzer manufacturing platform. With an impressive founding team and early partnership activity, EVOLOH is a strong addition to Engine Ventures’ portfolio of cleantech and advanced manufacturing companies.”

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Green hydrogen developer raises $250m from Generate Capital

Green hydrogen developer Ambient Fuels completed the capital raise to support its pipeline of projects.

Generate Capital, a leading sustainable infrastructure investment and operating company, has made an investment in Ambient Fuels, a pioneering developer that builds green hydrogen projects to support the decarbonization of heavy industries and transportation, according to a news release.

The agreement includes a commitment to fund up to $250m of green hydrogen infrastructure. The funding supports Ambient Fuels’ fast-growing pipeline of projects.

CEO Jacob Susman said in an interview earlier this year with ReSource that the company was in exclusivity with an investor.

Susman declined to name the private equity provider but said the backing will allow Ambient to develop several projects, as well as acquire projects from other developers. The deal was proceeding without the help of a financial advisor, he said at the time.

Ambient Fuels offers custom-engineered green hydrogen solutions, overseeing every step of execution—from project development and design to financing and construction—of its renewable hydrogen centers. The company’s technology-agnostic approach works with any renewable energy source to support decarbonization at scale. With experience across both conventional and renewable energy as well as industrial and chemical processes, the Ambient Fuels team offers deep development and technical expertise.

“Joining forces with a global sustainability leader such as Generate gives us access not only to the capital we need to grow our business but also to a trusted and strategic partner who is committed to our long-term success,” said Jacob Susman, chief executive officer of Ambient Fuels. “Our collaboration with Generate Capital supercharges our ability to meet the unique needs of our customers by delivering the green hydrogen facilities they require for their decarbonization efforts.”

“For the last decade, Generate Capital has been partnering with leading project developers and technology companies to de-risk, accelerate and scale innovative, sustainable infrastructure,” said Scott Jacobs, co-founder and chief executive officer of Generate Capital. “We are excited to work with the team at Ambient Fuels to deliver effective and cost-competitive solutions to emission-intensive sectors that have traditionally been considered hard to decarbonize.”

“Since SJF Ventures led the seed financing for Ambient Fuels in late 2021, the firm has developed a strong pipeline of green hydrogen projects,” said Dave Kirkpatrick, co-founder and managing director of SJF. “Generate has been extremely successful at scaling critical, sustainable infrastructure so we are delighted to partner with them to get all these projects built.”

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US hydrogen and LNG developer raising capital

A Texas-based project developer is conducting a development capital raise for a flagship LNG and green hydrogen project in the Northeast.

New Energy Development Company, a Katy, Texas-based developer with offices in Boston, Texas, is raising between $5m and $8m for an LNG liquefaction, storage and re-gasification facility with additional green hydrogen production and storage, Partner Scott Shields said in an interview.

The company is not using a financial advisor, Shields said, noting that a larger second round capital raise will likely start near the beginning of 2024.

New Energy has secured a brownfield site for a peak-shaving LNG facility in New England with 2 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and 50 MW of solar pv, Shields said. Also planned is an expandable 40 MW PEM electrolyzer line.

He declined to name the state in which the project is located, adding that the company is trying to put a strong support system and marketing plan in place before the location is made public.

The proceeds of the capital raise will go in part to hiring local lawyers and engineering and design work (pre-FEED and FEED), through to FID, Shields said. The project will be built in two phases, Phase 1 being the LNG component and Phase 2 focusing on green hydrogen.

The LNG facility will be the offtaker for the hydrogen, which will run the plant when the solar is insufficient. Through an open season process New Energy has identified five investment grade offtakers for the LNG.

Ramping capex

“We’ve been self-funding up until now,” Shields said of New Energy, which has also put capital and development resources into half-a-dozen other projects around the country.

It’s time for a ramp up in capital expenditures and New Energy is in discussions with strategic and private equity providers, Shields said, noting that the company would prefer the former. Discussions include options to fund just the flagship project, as well as platform equity.

Shields noted that he has investment banking experience and that New Energy Managing Partner Alexander “Hap” Ellis serves as chairman of Old Westbury Funds and the George and Barbara Bush Foundation.

New Energy has partnered with McDermott International to develop patented GreenER hydrogen facilities, a modular, expandable hydrogen facility that can produce 24,000 kg per day (2,760 MMBtu) of renewable hydrogen. The companies in 2021 completed engineering deliverables for multiple designs which are marketed as ideal for grid-scale blending with natural gas pipelines, blending for existing or new power generating facilities and storage injection into salt caverns and above ground storage tanks.

The company has also combined GreenER LNG and hydrogen production and storage plants into an integrated energy hub, capable of producing an additional 200,000 MMBtu of LNG.

New Energy recently hired Chico DaFonte, formerly a vice president at Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power, as executive vice president working on LNG and hydrogen projects.

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How hydrogen from nuclear power shows pitfalls of ‘additionality’

An interview with the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Director of Markets and Policy Benton Arnett.

Tax credits for low-carbon hydrogen production in the Inflation Reduction Act represent one of the climate law’s most ambitious timelines for implementation, with the provision taking effect late last year. That means low-carbon hydrogen producers can, in theory, already begin applying for tax credits of up to $3 per kilogram, depending on the emissions intensity of production.

However, IRS guidelines for clean hydrogen production have yet to be issued, and industry groups, environmentalists, and scientists are taking sides in a debate over whether the tax credits should require hydrogen made via electrolysis to be powered exclusively with new sources of zero-carbon electricity, a concept known as “additionality.”

In a February letter, a coalition of environmental groups and aspiring hydrogen producers expressed concern to the IRS that guidelines for 45V clean hydrogen production tax credit implementation would not be sufficiently rigorous, especially when it comes to grid-connected electrolyzers. Citing research from Princeton University, the group argued that grid-powered electrolyzers siphon off renewable generation capacity, requiring the grid to be backfilled by fossil power and thus producing twice the carbon emissions that natural gas-derived hydrogen emits currently.

(The group, which includes the National Resources Defense Council, Intersect Power, and EDF Renewables, among others, also argues in favor of hourly tracking, which they say would better guarantee energy used for electrolysis comes from clean sources, and deliverability, requiring renewable power to be sourced from within a reasonable geographic distance. In February, the European Commission issued a directive phasing in, over a number of years, rules for additionality, hourly tracking, and deliverability.)

Benton Arnett, director of markets and policy for the Washington, DC-based Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry trade association, does not believe the concept of additionality was part of Congress’s intent when the body crafted the Inflation Reduction Act. For one, he notes, the text of the 45V provision for clean hydrogen production includes specific prescriptions for the carbon intensity of hydrogen production as well as for the analysis of life-cycle emissions, but says nothing about additionality.

“When you get legislative text, you don’t usually have prescriptions on carbon intensities for the different levels of subsidies,” he said. “You don’t usually have specifications on what life-cycle analysis model to use – and yet all of that is included in the 45V text. Clearly [additionality] is not something that was intended by Congress.”

Reading further into the law, section 45V contains precise language allowing renewable electricity used for the production of hydrogen to also claim renewable energy tax credits, or “stacking” of tax credits. Further, the statute includes a subsection spelling out that producers of nuclear power used to make clean hydrogen can also avail themselves of the 45U tax credit for zero-emission nuclear energy production.

“It’s really hard for me to think of a scenario where the drafters of the IRA would have included a provision allowing existing nuclear assets to claim 45V production tax credits and also be thinking that additionality is something that would be applied,” Arnett said.

Text of the IRA

The NEI emphasized these provisions in a letter to Treasury and IRS officials last month, noting that, “given the ability to stack tax credits for existing sources with section 45V, the timing of when the section 45V credit was made available” – December 31, 2022 – “and congressional support for leveraging existing nuclear plants to produce hydrogen, it is clear Congress intended for existing facilities to be eligible to supply electricity for clean hydrogen production.”

Arnett adds that the debate around additionally ignores the fact that not all power generation assets are created equal. Nuclear facilities, in particular, given the regulatory and capital demands, do not fit within a model of additionality geared toward new renewable energy capacity. (Hydrogen developers have also proposed to use existing hydropower sources for projects in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast.)

This year, the NEI conducted a survey of its 19 member companies representing 80 nuclear facilities in the US. The survey found that 57% of the facilities are considering generation of carbon-free hydrogen. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy’s hydrogen hubs grant program requires that one hub produce hydrogen from nuclear sources; and the DOE has teamed up with several utilities to demonstrate hydrogen production at nuclear power plants, including Constellation’s Nine Mile Point Power Station, Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, and Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Generating Station.

“We’re worried that if [additionality] goes into effect it’s going to remove a valuable asset for producing hydrogen from the system, and it’s really going to slow down penetration of hydrogen into the market,” Arnett said.

As for the research underlying arguments in favor of additionality, Arnett says that it appears to take the 45V provision in a vacuum, without considering some of the larger changes that are taking shape in US electricity markets. For one, the research, which argues that electrolyzers would absorb renewable capacity and require fossil-based generation to backfill to meet demand, assumes that natural gas generation will continue to be the marginal producer on the electrical grid.

“One of the shortcomings of that is that the IRA has hundreds of billions of dollars of incentives aimed at changing that very dynamic. The whole goal of the IRA is that marginal additions of power are carbon-free,” he said, noting incentives for clean electricity production tax credits, investment tax credits, supply chain buildouts, and loan program office support for all of these projects.

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Midstream hydrogen firm to seek capital for projects within one year

The first slate of the company’s salt cavern hydrogen storage and pipeline projects will likely reach FID within six to 12 months, setting the stage for a series of project finance and tax equity transactions.

NeuVentus, the newly formed midstream infrastructure and hydrogen storage company backed by Lotus Infrastructure Partners, will likely seek project financing and tax equity for its first cache of projects in the Gulf Coast region of Texas and Louisiana in six to 12 months, CEO Sam Porter said in an interview.

“It sure looks like 45V and 45Q, and basically everything the IRA just did, is like a brick on the accelerator,” Porter said, explaining that he expects additional federal clarifications for hydrogen to come this year. “We’re looking at FIDing a first batch of projects, which I think are really going to marry up some things that the project finance community loves.”

That includes salt cavern storage and pipelines with a novel ESG twist, Porter said. The company plans to own and operate its developments as a platform. If in time demand for projects becomes overwhelming, the equity holders could sell those projects.

NeuVentus recently launched with Lotus’ backing. The private equity firm’s position is that they are able and ready to fund all project- and platform-level equity, Porter said.

“There’s certainly project level finance requirements, debt, tax equity and sponsor equity,” Porter said. The company will first get its projects de-risked as much as possible.

Pickering Energy Partners was mandated for NeuVentus’ seed raise. Porter said there could be additional opportunities for financial advisors to participate in fundraising, though Lotus has significant in-house capabilities and relationships.

Vinson & Elkins served as the law firm advising Lotus Infrastructure, formerly Starwood Energy, on the launch of NeuVentus.

The company is also open to acquiring abandoned or underutilized infrastructure assets, convertible to hydrogen, Porter said. Assets that connect production and consumption that can be more resistant to embrittlement than newer midstream infrastructure and would be of interest.

Exiting assets in regions that are good for hydrogen production, namely those that are sunny and windy, and are relatively close to consumption, will get the closest look.

Oil & gas in the energy transition

Renewable-sourced hydrogen offers an opportunity for traditional oil and gas operators to continue their work in salt domes.

NeuVentus’ plan is to focus on storage first, and then have the pipeline emanate from that, Porter said. The founding team of the company has a lot of experience in oil & gas and structuring land deals (mineral rights and surface/storage rights) in the Gulf region, where salt caverns are abundant.

The company is also open to an anchor tenant that needs a pipeline segment between production and consumption. But from a developers’ perspective the most prudent play will be around storage sites located with multiple interconnection options, he said.

There are roughly 1,500 miles of pipeline and 9 to 10 million kilograms of daily hydrogen production and consumption in the Texas and Louisiana Gulf region, Porter said.

“I think we’re going to see a significant need for more midstream build-out,” he said. “The traditional fee-for-service model is going to be appealing to a lot of the new entrants.”

A molecule-agnostic approach

Hydrogen is “a Swiss army knife” of a feedstock for numerous use cases, Porter said. That all of those use cases will prevail is uncertain, but NeuVentus ultimately only needs one or two of them to grow.

“Additional hydrogen infrastructure is going to be required,” whether it’s for ammonia as fertilizer or methanol as fuel or something else, Porter said. “We don’t necessarily care: all of them are going to require clean hydrogen.”

Equity owners in NueVentus will be opportunistic when it comes to an eventual financial exit, Porter said.

“The beauty of this is that I can see a number of potential buyers,” he said.

An offtaker that wants to vertically integrate, like foreign consumers of hydrogen products, could want to acquire a midstream platform for purposes of national energy security. Industrial gas companies could want to acquire the infrastructure as well. Large energy transfer companies that move molecules are obvious acquirers as well, and finally the company could remain independent or list publicly under its own business plan.

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